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Q&A with Nat Kendall-Taylor, CEO of FrameWorks Institute

Dec 2, 2019

Nat Kendall-Taylor is the CEO of FrameWorks Institute, a nonprofit think tank that aims to further public understanding on various social issues. Kendall-Taylor spoke with Interact for Health about ending the opioid epidemic.

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about the FrameWorks Institute's goals?

Kendall-Taylor: FrameWorks Institute supports those in the nonprofit sector to use framing as a tool to advance social change. We do a lot of empirical and experimental work to investigate how presenting information in different ways shapes the way people think, feel and are willing to act on social issues. We study public thinking and understanding from a deep anthropological perspective instead of a public opinion perspective. We then bring what we learn about framing issues to individuals in communications positions, such as people who are actively communicating about the opioid epidemic or any number of health and non-health related issues.

Interact for Health: Could you tell me a brief story that illustrates the effect of your work in the local community?

Kendall-Taylor: We've worked with the John Dreyzehner, the former commissioner of Tennessee Department of Health, to improve the state's communications around the opioid misuse epidemic. We've been working to help the state become more effective in how they as a state institution are framing issues around addiction, substance use and opioids. We've also completed work on healthy, affordable, and fair housing and passed along our findings to about 30 leaders from affordable housing organizations across the country. We are confident they will be able to take what they have learned from our research to their jurisdictions and municipalities to create more effective communication to advance issues of affordable and equitable housing. 

Interact for Health: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Kendall-Taylor: For 20 years, FrameWorks Institute has been working on issues of early childhood development, and I'm proud of the degree to which we've been able to be helpful to advocates in the field by moving public thinking and discourse forward and achieving some durable and long-term policy changes. I'm also proud of the Institute's organizational culture, which is deeply collaborative and wildly innovative. 

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned through your work?

Kendall-Taylor: I've learned how small decisions about how we present information can have a pronounced effect on how people understand and are willing to engage with issues. Another lesson I have learned is to not make assumptions about what the public knows about an issue. The third lesson I've learned is we need to concern ourselves with culture change if we want to make a sustained and durable impact. The opioid misuse epidemic will not be addressed by changing a few policies. It is going to require a different way of thinking about addiction and responding to the issue.

Interact for Health: What about your work excites you most?

Kendall-Taylor: Being helpful brings me joy. We don't have an answer or solution to any social problems, but the work we do can be helpful and add value to work being done by advocates trying to make change happen. So being helpful in a small, but important way, is fulfilling.

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